01 September 2008

Journalists Give Workers the Business

I couldn't really think of a better title than the original one of this report from the Center for American Progress. They did a quantitative review of major news outlets and show how workers are systematically ignored in favor of business sources, even on news issues that workers and unions know a lot about!

They found:

  • Overall, representatives of business were quoted or cited nearly two-and-a-half times ƒ as frequently as were workers or their union representatives.

  • In coverage of both the minimum wage and trade, the views of businesses were ƒ sourced more than one-and-a-half times as frequently as those of workers.

  • In coverage about employment, businesses were quoted or cited over six times as frequently as were workers.

  • On only one issue that we examined, ƒ credit card debt, was coverage more balanced, presenting the perspectives of ordinary citizens in the same pro- portion as those of business.

Here are some screenshots of their data for you to scroll through.

It's important to remember that business sources aren't necessarily any more expert on issues like the minimum wage, employment, and trade than labor sources. Academics were counted separately in this study.

I find it interesting to think about what our society would look like if we had 2.5 times more people in management than in labor.

From the article:

But the best explanation for the kind of bias described in this report is that journalists have a preference for elite sources, such as government or business representatives, over ordinary citizens. In short, it is just easier for a reporter to talk to a professional, such as a business spokesperson, than to find a good quote from a worker or ordinary citizen who does not represent a set interest group.

Of course, this doesn't explain everything, since journalists seemed to find plenty of citizen sources for their credit-card debt coverage.

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